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The Forgotten LGBTQ+ Minority

Jason Reid

By Jason Reid

Imagine being a minority within a minority and having to constantly fight to be recognised. Sadly that’s the reality for many LGBTQ+ people with disabilities — little to no representation on the stages’ of queer bars, and in media and popular queer culture. Also, unbelievably, people with disabilities are still often the butt of jaded drag queens’ boozed-up “jokes”. If people don’t see themselves represented and are not comfortable in supposed safe spaces, those spaces are failing.

As a community, we’ve made great strides in recent years addressing the lack of representation that was allowed to fester for far too long because of the indifference of promoters and venue managers. Strong voices spoke out, called out, and groundbreaking collectives such as The Cocoa Butter Club and The Bitten Peach were created.

Similarly, Wayne Allingham aka Miss Sugar Cube, who has cerebral palsy, created Disabled, Queer and Hear to provide nights for people with disabilities where they can feel comfortable and not judged or pitied.

“As a drag queen with disabilities I don’t feel represented as much as I should, and it’s quite horrifying. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I can’t do my work just like anyone else. If we all work together as a community, uplifting each other, it will be a lot better.

“I set up Disabled, Queer and Hear in order to authentically represent the LGBTQ+ disabled community so that we can have safe spaces, grow awareness and give a platform to LGBTQ+ artists with disabilities. There are 14.1 million people with visible and hidden disabilities in Great Britain”, Wayne told me.

My own disabilities stem from a four-month hospitalisation with AIDS-defining illnesses when I was admitted with a CD4 count of 9 and the HIV spread to my brain causing cryptococcal meningitis and HIV dementia (severe cognitive impairment), which meant I had to learn to read, write and speak again.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long for my cognitive ability to improve, however, I now live with severe depression and PTSD — which manifests as panic attacks, social anxiety and emotional blunting. I consider myself lucky that my disabilities are for the most part not visible because I understand how my friends who are visibly disabled are stigmatised. I have found it hard to speak about my mental health. I remember working with someone on the gay scene who would comment jokingly about certain artists “harping on about their mental health”. Every time they said that my heart sank and I died a little inside. But things are improving, and that’s down to openness.

Wayne explained to me why the competition at The RVT to find the artist of the year is so important:

“The reason this competition is sorely needed is that other competitions on the LGBTQ+ scene rarely platform disabled artists, if ever. It could be because of a lack of BSL signers, or no lift for wheelchair users, or even no disabled toilet. In all honesty, I also think it’s because they are not going to be received well.

DQAH“We have come a long way but there is a lot more to be done. The only way LGBTQ+ people with disabilities are going to break down the stigma is to be visually out there, and that’s what we’re doing with Disabled, Queer and Hear.”

Disabled, Queer and Hear – Artist Of the Year is on Wednesday 9th March at Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, SE11 5HY.

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